This is a tribute to our beloved Nana, Peggy Plummer who passed away on July 21st 2011.
I’m writing this because I know she enjoyed reading my blog posts, and enjoyed it whenever she was mentioned.
So this Nana, is especially for you.
Nana was born on 2nd September, 1924. Her birth name was Peggy Gray.
This is written purely on memory. Consequently, I can’t tell you how much she weighed when she was born or anything like that. What I do know though –
- She was the 3rd eldest of 10 (yes 10!) siblings.
- She grew up in Cleethorpes, North-East England.
- Her father was a fisherman who worked on the North Sea.
Nana would always talk about her childhood, how wonderful it was being so close to the sea (her house overlooked the North Sea) and how she adored Cleethorpes ‘Fish and Chips’. “Nowhere makes them like they did in Cleethorpes” we were told more times than we cared to remember!
By todays standards, materialistically her family had very little. But like most people back then, she made the most of it. She’d often tell us about her trips to the cinema, walks along the promenade and her childhood exploits.
The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 was to change the course of Nana’s life entirely.
Her father was forced to give up his fishing job due to the risk posed by German U-boats and mines.
Somehow the family found themselves inland in industrial Leicester (about 8 hours from Cleethorpes back then). Her parents found work in a munitions factory and Nana aged 15, had now left school. She too would find herself contributing to the war effort in a munitions factory.
It doesn’t sound overtly glamorous and I can’t imagine it was, but the way she talked about those days – you’d think she had the time of her life. She’d often tell us about how wonderful those dark days were. It may seem strange to us, but it seemed “people lived for the moment and not for tomorrow” back then, as she would often remind us.
Despite the rations, ‘The Blitz’. the loss of life and everything that came with it, Nana seemed to make the most of the time. In particular, the ‘Yank’ G.I’s who were apparently infinitely “more handsome, better paid and glamorous than our boys“. I won’t say anymore.
I used to love Nana and Grandad babysitting for my sister and I when we were children. Nana would enthrall me with stories from the war and the ‘old days’ for hours before I’d eventually fall asleep. I was fascinated, she had a knack for telling a fantastic story. (Grandad having fought in the war, never actually spoke about it for understandable reasons.)
Even in Nana’s final days, (in one of our last conversations) she still managed a story.
She’d been out late with her friends as the Germans were dropping bombs on Leicester. Her mum had stayed up all night worried sick for her. When she finally came home, her mother was understandably livid with her, and she got a ‘jolly good hiding’.
Nana’s summary of that night and ‘Blitzkrieg’, almost 70 years later – “It was exciting”.
There’s so many more stories than that. We’d ask her all about those defining days in history, and she could tell us exactly what it was like to be there and live through it first hand. From listening to Chamberlains announcement that war had been declared, to Churchill’s ‘We shall never Surrender’ speech, to seeing the night sky burning as Coventry was obliterated by the Luftwaffe and living through ‘The Blitz’, all the way through to the heartbreak caused amongst the local girls by the D-Day Landings and the horrific loss of life.
“One day they were just gone, most of them never to be seen again”
Nothing will ever be able to replace those memories. My only regret is that by the time I had the idea to record her stories for the benefit of future generations of the Plummer family, it was too late. They will however thankfully remain etched into our memory bank.
After the war, Nana met my Grandad, Norman. I’m not sure how impressed she was by him initially. If memory serves me correct, they met at a dance at the Bell Hotel in Leicester. Grandad had just returned from the war dressed in his RAF uniform, and Nana was totally unimpressed when he told her that he was “going to play football” now the war is over.
Little did Nana realise, that this hobby would actually become his full-time career and they’d live a good life because of it.
Nana managed to live independently throughout her old age. It was quite remarkable to think that she was still driving two weeks before her passing. The doctors were apparently dumbfounded at how she had managed to live independently so long despite her frailness and chronic arthritis.
That was the kind of woman she was though, she was tough, fiercely proud and would never let anybody do anything for her. As my parents said “Even if it took her a whole day to change her bed sheets, she’d do it and wouldn’t even think to ask anybody else for help”.
We’re always complimentary when paying tribute to people, but I wouldn’t write this for anyone. She was a truly special woman. In my eyes, these words will never do her justice.
Nana genuinely did make an impression on people. And it was always a good one. Even if they met her in passing, she was not easily forgotten.
My uncle Peter was telling me the other day how one of his friends, who’d only met her for a brief afternoon several years ago still asked about her, and was genuinely saddened to learn of her passing.
She was full of warmth and love.
One of the things I loved about her most was that I knew whatever I did, whether it be right, wrong, or just plain average – she wouldn’t care, she wouldn’t judge. She’d always be proud of me, tell me how handsome, and wonderful I am and tell me she loved me no matter what I did. I’m sure (know) the rest of the family (perhaps more so grandchildren!) can relate to this as well.
She also had a wonderful sense of humour. Two days before her passing, despite her condition she was still managing to inform the nurses that she was a “Retired WAG“. The nurses response “So that’s why you always insist on having your make-up on then Peggy“.
She also managed “So I expect we’ll be hearing the patter of little Chinese feet soon”. I hope not, but it made us laugh nonetheless.
I remember going to visit her when I was 15 years old. Nana was concerned that I might be bored listening to ‘adult talk’ so she sat me in the living room, and was delighted to see that ‘Cinderella’ was on the TV for me.
“Daniel, this will keep you entertained. Cinderella’s a good film”.
Needless to say, I changed the channel as soon as she left the room. Just like any other 15-year-old boy would!
She was a remarkable woman who lived a remarkable life. She was adored by her family and friends alike.
Not a day will go by where we won’t miss her and she will always be in our thoughts.
I wish it could have been longer, but I’m blessed I had 22 years with her. I’ll always be grateful for that and will cherish the memories.
I’m content in the knowledge that she knew how loved she was and how much she meant to so many people.
I look forward to the day I can tell my grandkids the stories my Nana told me, and tell them about their great-great grandparents and the wonderful life they lived.
She was the leading lady of our family, and the lights have finally faded.
The memories however, never will.
Good night Nana.